Praise band reborn as Exit 179
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Written by By COLE CHRISTENSEN Sentinel Staff Writer
Monday, 14 December 2009 12:40
While there is a distinct musical void between religious worship bands and secular rock and roll groups, one area quartet has found a way to balance both through a live show that provides entertainment to music lovers on Saturday night and spiritual guidance to church goers on Sunday.
Exit 179 has a long history as a Christian praise band in Bowling Green, performing on and off at area churches for most of the decade. In addition to supporting praise services, the band also branches out to non-religious venues, expanding their musical direction and penchant for original songs and creatively-arranged covers.
Although Exit 179 may have found a new setting for their music in recent years, their roots in evoking a spiritual experience through music continue to influence the direction and tone of live performances.
"I find spiritual significance in every song we play. For me it becomes an act of worship even if we are playing in a bar," front man Chris Dilbone said in a recent telephone interview. "Even our originals have a lot of spiritual significance. We haven't necessarily left that behind."
Exit 179 performs at the Cla-Zel this Saturday. They will be joined by area band Local Delivery. The doors open at 7pm and tickets are $5.
In addition to Dilbone on guitar and lead vocals, Exit 179 features Seth Lambert on lead guitar, Chris Lambert on bass and Brian Roberts on drums.
Formed in 2002 as a praise band for a local church, Exit 179 was originally dedicated to leading religious worship; however, a split from the church in 2005 caused the quartet to go their separate ways for many months.
Following the split, Dilbone continued performing a solo acoustic show at area coffee shops until he approached his former band members about starting up again as a performance group. From here Exit 179 was reborn, so to speak, as a secular band with a focus on spirituality.
"We had played a few gigs for an organization called Global Connections," Dilbone said. "That was the first time we started learning cover songs in addition to worship tunes and our originals, so that kind of got our feet wet into the world of covers."
"Basically it was just playing wherever we could," he added. "We still enjoyed playing for church services and would do whatever they wanted in terms of a worship event."
For Dilbone, the transition from leading worship to performing in front of an audience has been the biggest challenge. In addition to the marketing efforts required to secure gigs and build and audience, the movement from leading worship towards a greater purpose to leading a band in a more personalized performance has been somewhat of a dramatic switch.
"In the church we are trying to pump people to Jesus and we are not the focal point," he said. "When you go out to play other places you are the focal point, whether you want to be or not. Trying to manage that, you have to be comfortable that it is O.K. in that setting to enjoy the performance of it all."
Presently they focus on originals (penned by Dilbone), carefully arranged, diverse covers and occasionally worship songs at secular performances. Both Seth Lambert and Roberts are newer to the band, with Roberts joining only two months ago, which has diversified their sound and creative energy. Dilbone said their set list is extremely diverse, from Coldplay to Johnny Cash to Tom Petty.
In addition to shows at area venues, Exit 179 serves as the praise band at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in summers when the regular praise band is on break. Dilbone also occasionally performs acoustic praise services with St. Mark's Senior Pastor Dale Schaefer at the Norwalk race track.
"I think we have a gift for praise services," Dilbone said. "We are basically trying not to pigeonhole ourselves into any one thing and we want to be a jack of all trades."